Thumbs down for Pac-12/Big Ten partnership

THE PAC-12 / BIG TEN partnership would have thrilled me years ago. Everyone wants more and better college football matchups, and it's a heckuva lot more interesting to see a close game against a good opponent than a 49-10 blowout. But given the college football landscape, the Cougars, and every other Pac-12 team, and every Big Ten team, will be at a disadvantage.

It might not be fully implemented until 2017. And yes, such games matching the two conferences will bring in more exposure and more money. But it will also bring more losses across the board to the teams involved.

There will be seasons when a Pac-12 school will be on the brink of gaining bowl eligibility, and lose it because they played a strong Michigan squad that year. There will be seasons when a Pac-12 school is jockeying for higher bowl position, and end up on the lower rung because they played an excellent Wisconsin team that season.

Such scheduling is noble, but it's the exact opposite of what the most successful teams are doing. If everyone was scheduling tougher matchups, the new venture would be great. But they're not.

LSU HAS BEEN the king of scheduling to their advantage. Even when college football was on an 11-game schedule, LSU often still played seven of those games at home. Next year, they will play 8-of-12 games at home. Talk about your competitive advantage.

Forget about eight, when was the last time WSU played seven home games?

Want to know how long it had been since LSU played only six games at home before this year? You have to go back more than 15 seasons, all the way back to 1995-96, to find a year when LSU actually played six games on the road.

And it will now be harder for WSU and every other school to play more of their games at home when one of their non-conference games features the Big Ten. Now consider what that one game of increased competition will mean when others are often playing none.

In 2008, LSU managed a 7-5 record and got to a bowl. Four of those seven wins came via North Texas, Tulane, Troy and Appalachian State. LSU didn't even leave the damned state during their non-conference schedule, playing all four of those games at home. But they got their 15 bowl practices. They ended up winning their bowl game, too, and got all the ancillary benefits that come with a bowl win, recruiting and otherwise.

If in 2008, LSU played more of a Pac-12 type of non-conference schedule, would they have still been able to get to seven wins? If they actually had to go on the road they way Pac-12 schools do, would they still have gotten to seven wins?

This isn't a knock on LSU. They've maximized their potential for wins. And they're far from the only ones scheduling cupcakes.

Virginia Tech scheduled James Madison, East Carolina and Central Michigan in 2010 as part of their non-conference slate, (though James Madison pulled off a shocker.) This season, they scheduled Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall. Guess who went 4-0 in those games and is in a BCS bowl next week?

Alabama regularly uses three of four non-conference slots to log sure-fire wins. Last year it was San Jose State, Duke and Georgia State. This year, Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern. What if Alabama had played a ranked team or two in their non-conference schedule. Would they still only have one loss? Would they still have been able to snag that No. 2 BCS ranking?

Tennessee in 2011 played Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Middle Tennessee State on tap. NC State had Liberty, South Alabama, Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Texas Tech faced Texas State, New Mexico and Nevada. Defending national champion Auburn put it on the line against the likes of Utah State, Clemson, FAU and Samford. The list goes on.

Maybe the college landscape will change by the time the Pac-12/BigTen is implemented. But I doubt it, LSU and others have seemed to get plenty of exposure doing it the way they're doing it, with lots of home games and guaranteed wins. Hate to say it, but when it comes to bowl games and poll rankings for the Pac-12 and BigTen, they've just made it harder on themselves.

Cougfan Top Stories